Deputies follow fallen Navy SEAL’s physical conditioning regimen

Sheriff Lott continues RCSD’s Memorial Day MURPH CHALLENGE tradition

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and deputies with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) participated in the 16th-annual RCSD MURPH CHALLENGE WORKOUT Memorial Day morning, May 29, at the department’s CrossFit gym in the old Richland Mall complex in Forest Acres.

The MURPH workout – the namesake of U.S. Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael “Murph” Murphy who lost his life during Operation Red Wings, Afghanistan, in 2005 – begins with a quick one-mile run followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats, and lastly a second one-mile run. The pull-ups, push-ups, and squats are not required to be completed all at once but may be worked through in staggered sets. The workout was designed by Lt. Murphy, who regularly incorporated the program into his physical conditioning routine. Murphy himself referred to the workout as “Body Armor,” because the running and sets were (and usually are) performed while wearing body armor.

MURPHS are today held in gyms and on training fields around the world, especially on Memorial Day in honor of Murph and America’s fallen.

The first Memorial Day MURPH CHALLENGE workout was held at an Albany, N.Y. crossfit gym in 2007 led by U.S. Air Force Pararescueman Joshua Appel who helped recover Murph’s body two years earlier following the ill-fated special operation wherein 19 Americans were killed, most of whom perished when a U.S. Army CH-47 chinook helicopter was downed by a rocket-propelled grenade.

Sheriff Lott also began hosting RCSD’s own annual MURPH workout on Memorial Day 2007, and it has since become an RCSD Memorial Day tradition kicking off the final Monday in May at 8:00 a.m.

“It’s officially a state and federal holiday, so many of our off-duty deputies and other employees are spending the day with family, though they will join us and begin the day with our Murph workout as part of their annual tradition,” says Sheriff Lott. “Many of the participating deputies are former military, and so they see this as great way to come together as a team, embrace our culture of fitness here at RCSD, and honor America’s fallen.”

RCSD holds three versions of the MURPH – the full MURPH which the Sheriff, a lifelong athlete, has completed countless times as have many of his deputies, the half Murph, and the modified Murph – so that all may participate.

“It’s the hardest workout I’ve ever completed,” said RCSD Chaplain Chris Hutnyak.

The MURPH is a timed event. “Fifty minutes or less is a good time to complete it,” says Sheriff Lott. “The sets are completed here in the gym. The two one-mile running events are held on the mall’s upper-level parking lot led by one of our Special Response Team operators.”

Lt. Murphy was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for combat valor for his heroic actions during Operation Red Wings in 2005. His family has presented the award on Oct. 22, 2007, the same year Murph Challenge workouts – including RCSD’s annual Murph workout – began being held nationwide.

– Pictured are Sheriff Lott, RCSD deputies, and a few RCSD civilian employees prior to beginning the Murph Challenge workout on Memorial Day 2023.